Hickory Hill

Retirement is anything but relaxing at Kirby Pines Lifecare Community

Boredom is not an option at Hickory Hill’s Kirby Pines Lifecare Community. The facility has a huge variety of options to keep its senior residents busy including a movie theater, art studio, barbershop, beauty salon, exercise room, and swimming pool.

Construction on a new wellness center will begin soon to accommodate the growing number of seniors interested in staying active.

Kirby Pines' Executive Director Michael Escamilla said most seniors are no longer interested in just relaxing in retirement communities. It's all about staying active.

“There's a huge amount of stuff that they're doing at all times,” said Escamilla.

Currently the seniors have an exercise room full of equipment and a personal trainer available five days a week. But more residents are requesting more room to experiment with new types of physical activity, which has prompted the expansion.
The current workout room at Kirby Pines retirement community is too small for the number of residents who want to stay active and the activities they want to try. They're expanding the workout facility, including the indoor pool. (A.J. Dugger).
“We've outgrown that space. Seniors today want more and more exercise and to be more active,” said Escamilla.

The four-floor, nonprofit retirement community was established in 1983 and is located at 3535 Kirby Parkway in Hickory Hill.

In addition to physical activities, some of the most popular Kirby Pines offerings are its book club, travel club, wood shop, line dancing, and ballroom dancing. Artists keep busy in the large art studio, which is filled with residents’ paintings and easels holding works still in progress.

The new wellness center will connect to the property's greenhouse, but Escamilla said the final size and specs for the new facility are still being defined. The expansion will also include a larger indoor pool.

Current construction is focused on Kirby Pines’ sister facility, The Farms At Bailey Station. Located near the Germantown-Collierville border, it will house 300 residents once completed.


While younger people spend most of their time working and supporting their families and households, seniors are more able to give spare time and dollars to support others.

“[Residents] at Kirby, for the last decade, have produced about 30,000 hours of volunteer time in the community at large every year,” said Escamilla. “That's a lot of volunteer hours just from this one little core group who live here in Hickory Hill.”

Kirby Pines partnered with Yuletide Office Solutions to host a toy truck drive in early December for Porter-Leath, a local non-profit group working with at-risk children and families.

Kirby Pines chooses three families each year to sponsor during the winter holiday season.

“We get those families from different ministers, churches, and pastors. The individuals are interviewed and we spend about $700 to make their Christmas a little bit better,” said Escamilla.

Throughout the year, residents knit hundreds of little beanies and booties and handcraft wooden toys for the children and infants at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

There’s also an employer-sponsored education fund for staff members, but the residents contribute their support there too.

“All full-time employees can get up to $1000 a year [towards their] education,” said Escamilla, who noted there are currently 370 total employees.

The residents collect several thousand dollars each year for graduation gifts. It’s split among all employees who are graduating, whether it's from high school, college, or technical school.

Kirby Pines' grand foyer is currently decorated for the holiday season. (A.J. Dugger)

Golden years in hickory hill

Escamilla said many people hitting retirement age are looking to downsize from their large, family homes and the associated property taxes, yard work, and home maintenance. They’re looking for alternatives that offer amenities and community without the hassle of a home.
“They want to travel and feel secure. That's why they come to us,” he said.

The majority of residents come from the Memphis metro area, but Escamilla said residents hail from New York, Florida, and other states.

“We have a large number of residents who have moved here sight unseen from places like California, where they looked into lifecare communities and the price is out of reach,” Escamilla explained.

Betty Terry and her husband have been full-time residents at Kirby Pines for five years. They were part-time residents before that

“Every month for years and years, we drove back and forth from Alabama to Memphis [and] Kirby Pines,” said Terry. “We would stay almost a week every month, and then after doing that for years and years, we decided we're ready to move in.”

Now, Terry is a regular participant of Monday night bingo and a member of the poetry club.
Terry likes helping other residents and said they and the staff of Kirby Pines have become like family. She said moving in full-time was a great decision.

“We have not regretted it one bit. It's been a wonderful, wonderful place,” said Terry.

Escamilla said that due to deaths, new enrollments, and people coming in and out of rehab, the exact number of residents varies, but he estimates they serves roughly 625 people daily.

“In healthcare, people come and go every day,” he said. “Eighty percent of people in rehab are short term, just a month or a couple of weeks ... On any given day, you can have one coming in and one going out.”

The Success of Kirby Pines

For 13 years, Kirby Pines has been the reigning champion in the Best Retirement Community category of the Commericial Appeal's "Memphis Most" challenge.

It's not unusual to see second generation residents staying at the facility.

“I think that says a lot about us and what we do and how generations feel about us,” said Escamilla. “Their parents lived here and now [they] are living here.”

Most applicants have to be 55 or older to call Kirby Pines home, but are some exceptions for rehab services and those who retire early. 

Kirby Pines offers assisted living, independent living, nursing care, continual care, and rehabilitation. It has seven guest suites for visitors and a unit for residents with Alzheimer's and dementia.

Kirby Pines was built on farmland purchased by Psalms Incorporated 36 years ago.

Many residents have had exciting adventures and major accomplishments in their lifetimes. One resident was a U.S. Marine who’d helped allied French forces during his service.

“... a delegation from France came to present him the French Legion Of Merit, France’s highest honor,” said Escamilla.

Another current resident, Mable Meck, recently celebrated her 105th birthday.

“She was in the marines,” said Escamilla. “It's hard to find a marine that old that served that long ago [and is] a woman."
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by A. J. Dugger III.

A.J. Dugger III is an award-winning journalist and native Memphian who joined High Ground as lead writer for its signature series, On the Ground, in August 2019. Previously, he wrote for numerous publications in West Tennessee and authored two books, “Southern Terror” and “The Dealers: Then and Now.” He has also appeared as a guest expert on the true-crime series, “For My Man.” For more information, visit ajdugger.net. (Photo by April Stilwell)